LEADING scientist Prof Jordan Raff is appealing to women across the county to help fund his research into cancer by putting on their trainers and taking part in this year’s Oxford Race for Life.

A father-of-three, Prof Raff, from Headington, is based at the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology in South Parks Road, Oxford, where he leads a team of scientists backed by Cancer Research UK, the charity behind Race for Life.

Cancer Research ploughed £23m into research projects in Oxford last year, including Prof Raff’s vital research into how cells separate their chromosomes (DNA) as they divide – a process that is essential to life but goes wrong as cancer develops.

Prof Raff said: “Cancer is a very complicated disease caused when the body’s cells start to divide uncontrollably. “There are trillions of cells in the adult body, but they normally only divide when the body needs them to. In cancer, this control goes awry.”

Prof Raff’s secret weapon in understanding cancer and helping to provide treatments is the humble fruit fly.

For a quarter of a century he has been using the tiny flies – and the latest microscopic technology – to study potential life-saving links between them and human cells. He said: “Experiments in flies are helping us to understand how cancer works.

“Researchers around the world use fruit flies because we now know that what we learn about how flies work usually gives us important clues as to how humans work, and of course it is much easier to do experiments on flies.

“The basic biology is usually very similar in flies and humans, even though you would never guess this by looking at them. “We’ve already shown that some of the things we’ve identified as being important for understanding cancer in flies are also important for understanding cancer in humans.”

Cancer Research UK’s funding in Oxfordshire comes largely from its Race for Life event – a women-only 5k walk or jog, which this year takes place on Sunday, July 14, at 10am at University Parks in Oxford Last year, 5,863 women took part – including women who had beaten or were still fighting cancer – raising £341,003.

And this year, organisers are hoping to get 6,100 people signed up to help raise £350,000 for research.

Prof Raff and his research team are also regulars at Race for Life, where they give talks about their work.

The professor added: “There will never be one magic bullet to cure all cancers, but progress is being made a little at a time and the results of research are already making a difference. I’m confident we will see even more results in the next five years.

“But in the meantime I hope as many women as possible will take part in Race for Life in Oxford and in doing so help the continuing fight against cancer.”

Registration is open for Race for Life at raceforlife.org